You can tell a good author when she takes a story that has been done many times before and makes it fresh. You can tell a very good author when one scene almost brings you to tears and the next scene to laughter and the one after that edge of your seat excitement. You can tell a truly gifted author when she can write compelling tales in something as diverse as a spine tingling romantic suspense and her next book a rich and compelling historical. Anne Stuart falls into the truly gifted author category. Her previous book, Black Ice was one of the best romantic suspense books of 2005 and I think her latest work, The Devils Waltz will be one of the best historicals of 2006. To me that is some accomplishment. The Devil’s Waltz is much lighter in tone than Black Ice. It’s a story that’s been done before. Christian Montcalm, an impoverished heir to a viscountsy, is an unprincipled rake who needs to marry for money. He has decided that Hetty a beautiful but vain young woman will do just fine. Since her father is not an aristocrat but rather comes from trade and a shocking one at that, Christian considers himself a fine choice. Out to stop him however, is our heroine and Hetty’s chaperone, Annelise Kempton. Annelise is the daughter of a baron who died on a drunken ride, leaving her penniless and dependant on the auspices of others. Although as I said, this is lighter in tone, it does have Ms. Stuarts usual ambiguous hero. Christian, you see, fully intends to wed, bed young Hetty and promptly move on to the chaperone. Luckily, Annelise is a good match for him. Like The Perfect Rake, the hero in this one finds the slightly unattractive heroine more than what is common.
If you aren’t used to Ms. Stuarts dark almost anti heroes and prefer the noble kind of, this book may be one you might want to skip. She has them walk that tightrope that borders on unredeemable and sometimes they almost fall off. None of them have for me yet though. I find them decadently delightful. If you are like me and enjoy dark heroes with questionable morals this is a book you simply cannot miss.
It’s odd. I see readers mourning the fact that fans of historical romance are losing two of the best with Connie Brockway and Lisa Kleypas both moving on to different genres. But no one seems to mention that it can be done successfully. A truly gifted author can do it. Anne Stuart does it – and does it wonderfully.
Grade 41/2 out of 5
Not long after I posted this, I noticed AAR had just put up a review for it. While it was a very good review, the reviewer had issues with the epilogue. I thought this was nuts!. How many people, myself included, wished there had been an epilogue for Black Ice - that it ended to abruptly. The complaint would have been the same with this one. I thought the epilogue a very fine added touch indeed.